(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)Published by Penguin on June 26th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
When I picked up Everything I Never Told You, I wasn’t quite expecting the story that I got. I mean that in the best way possible by the way.
This book is about a family… one that has had something horrendous happen, and not only what that does to the family after but the lead up to the actual event itself. Set in the 1970’s in small town Ohio, Ng paints a picture that I can only imagine.
Marilyn and James find each other on the campus of Harvard… Marilyn, after growing up in a household where the only expectations on her were learning how to cook a meal or mend a garment was determined to have more in life. She pushed herself in school and ultimately had aspirations of becoming a doctor. When she meets James all of that falls by the wayside and her dreams are put on hold in favor of a family. James was brought up by parents who snuck into the U.S. and did everything they could to get him the education he needed to succeed, but the racial biases around him kept him from making friends and ultimately he found himself alone in the world… Until Marilyn.
But that’s only part of the story, and Ng manages to weave both the past and the present into an intriguing story where ultimately I came into the story needing to know what happened to Lydia, but as I turned the pages, I was invested in so much more.
The family dynamic created is almost painful to read, but in no way unrealistic. The struggles they face on a daily basis not only among each other, but from their peers were hard to digest. Now the parents of three children they push their own failures and desires on Lydia their middle child… be smart Lydia… be social Lydia … make friends Lydia… how can you be a doctor if you don’t ace physics Lydia. They just don’t see the harm that causes…. Not only to Lydia but to Nath who feels alienated by his father and Hannah who is practically invisible to the entire family.
Ultimately this story is about way more than a tragic death and why it happened. It delves deeply into the relationships between parent and child, it shows how children struggle to live up to the expectations that parents have and how parents struggle because they only want what they think might be best for their children and the influence that can have on a child. But it’s also about the dynamics of family and the secrets that are kept and tamped down among everyone.
This was definitely a sad read… sad in that you can see all the mistakes the characters are making and there is no way to stop it, and it is almost impossible to stop reading because you will want to know what the end brings them. Can they get past this horrible thing that happened? Can they move past the mistakes they’ve made? Can they mend the huge divides between them?
I’m not going to tell you, you’ll have to read for yourself.
If you’re looking for a layered, heart wrenching, and beautiful story that delves into the struggles of racial bias, family expectations, and gender barriers… a complex and intriguing mystery of what happened to this girl and why, you’ll definitely want to grab Everything I Never Told You today.
Thank you to the publisher for offering a giveaway for two lucky followers!!
Check out the Giveaway Page for Rules